Wednesday, September 26, 2007

William “Dollar Bill” Wirtz Dead at 77

Bill Wirtz died 26-Sep-2007 at Evanston Hospital, Chicago after battling cancer. The owner of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks franchise served as team president for 41 years and as a governor of the NHL for 18 years.

The Wirtz family bought into the Chicago Blackhawks in 1952 and Bill became President in 1966. With Wirtz at the helm the team only missed the playoff once between 1966 and 1997. Unfortunately their only playoff appearance since then was in 2002.

William Wirtz spanned several era’s in the NHL and is perhaps best remembered as an enigma of himself. Notable contradictions in his legacy include:

He lost Bobby Hull to the upstart World Hockey Association as a result of not wanting to pay the league’s marquee player what was considered by Hull as an appropriate salary. Yet in the late 1970’s Wirtz played a significant role on negotiations that resulted in the merger of the WHA back into the NHL.

Legendary for his attention to the bottom line, Wirtz’s philanthropy through Blackhawk Charities is often over looked. Since establishment in 1993, Blackhawk Charities has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes in Chicago, including the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois.

Wirtz refused to enter into agreements that would see Blackhawk games televised yet he was also instrumental in making the success of amateur sport having server on the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympic committees.

I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more of William “Dollar Bill” Wirtz in the days to come.

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1 comment:

  1. The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks to Ed Snider, the Flyers’ owner who had just been booed on the ice by Flyers fans during the All-Star game ceremonies

    "Don’t let it bother you, Eddie, just do what I do. Every time Chicago fans boo me, I raise their ticket prices."

    -- William Wirtz - 1992 All-Star Game